Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, I owe William Hague a huge apology. While I appreciate that he is now the undisputed king of the after-dinner circuit and business-convention rota – funnier than Portillo, less grand than Heseltine and edgier than Major – and though it's perfectly obvious that he commands more respect as a politician now than at any time in his career, and even though he now has the inner confidence and smiley demeanour of the Complete Career Politician, there is a dark spot on the CV, a dark spot we're all aware of, a dark spot that I am partly responsible for.

It was once said that the best way to get hold of Hague was to look for a stick and he would be on the wrong end of it. But in the summer of 2000 that was no longer the case, as slowly and surely the Leader of the Opposition had begun to prove himself a worthy foil for Blair. He was widely written off after becoming Tory leader, but the combination of his scathing wit and some shrewd appeals to populism started to rattle the Government. Not only that, he did judo three times a week! Yes, he did wear that baseball cap, but we forgave him. And so at GQ we decided to interview him. And photograph him. And who better to shoot a prospective PM than the great-grandson of another? So we sent along Dan Macmillan to capture that wonderful Humpty Dumpty forehead for posterity. And verily it was good.

But it was the interview that did the damage: he discussed the weaknesses of the Cabinet, his days at Oxford, his wife Ffion, Brussels ("Somebody has to call a halt") and, fatally, his time as a driver's mate, delivering bottles and beer to towns and villages in South Yorkshire. Hague admitted that when he was doing this he would regularly drink 14 pints of beer a day. "I think when you're a teenager you can do that, especially if you're working hard in the heat – this was always in the summer and it was hard manual work – you get through a lot of liquid," he said, without so much as a care in the world.

Unsurprisingly, the story went vertical, and became the biggest non-issue-based domestic political story of the year. I've still got the press cuttings at home – four inches of photocopied newspaper pages, and not one of them with anything positive to say about the poor man.

And for that, I am truly sorry. William, William, I apologise. It was really nothing.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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